HE’S delighted by the rise of Rochdale and disappointed by the fall of Sheffield Wednesday – but promotion-chasing striker Jordan Rhodes doesn’t want to be facing either of them in League I next season.
A loan stint at Spotland last season proved an important learning experience for Town’s 23-goal top scorer, who has his sights firmly set on playing Championship football next season.
He notched on his Dale debut, a 2-2 League II draw at Rotherham, and finished with two goals in five appearances after helping them win 3-1 at Accrington.
While Rhodes returned to Ipswich and then had a loan stint at Brentford, scoring in their 2-1 win at Rochdale, the Lancashire side suffered play-off semi-final misery against Gillingham.
They finally slammed the door on 41 years of basement division football this time around, and Rhodes, preparing for today’s clash at Exeter, said: “It’s good news.
“I was only there for a month, but I really enjoyed my time there, and I’m still in touch with quite a few of the lads.
“It’s a very close-knit club, and because there aren’t that many staff, or players comes to that, everyone knows and looks out for each other.
“I was made welcome from the moment I arrived, and it’s just a shame they didn’t get through the play-offs last season.”
Wednesday, where Rhodes’ dad Andy is goalkeeping coach, will come into League I from the opposite direction.
They dropped from the Championship after managing only a draw in their crunch decider against Crystal Palace, who had another last-day survival at Town’s expense back in 2001.
“I’m obviously really disappointed for my dad, and it’s a shame to see a big club like Wednesday slip down the ladder,” added Rhodes, 20.
“It would provide a cracking local derby for us, but we’d obviously much rather be playing the likes of Sheffield United and Barnsley in the Championship.”
Leeds could also be on the agenda should Town win promotion, with the situation becoming clearer after today’s key final games.
The Elland Road side, of course, are in the box seat, with a home win over Bristol Rovers enough to clinch the remaining automatic berth.
But it’s been well documented that any of Leeds, Millwall, Swindon, Charlton and Town could still finish second.
As Rhodes said in yesterday’s Examiner, Town will simply aim to win in Devon, and see where that leaves them in the final table.
If, as seems likely, it’s the play-offs, then the Oldham-born ace is more than ready for the challenge.
“It’s a great prospect, and the two semi-final games would be massive,” he said.
“Two clubs going head over two legs with the incentive of a Wembley final – if you don’t get excited about that, then you won’t get excited about anything.
“Playing in big matches like these is the kind of thing you dream about when you’re playing junior football on Sunday mornings.
“When you graduate to being a professional, it’s what you train every day for, and you can sense that feeling among all the players here.
“We know that in all probability, we’re playing for our places in the play-offs, and that’s a really big driving force.
“When we set out this season, getting to the play-offs was a minimum, and while we’ve achieved stage one, now it’s getting to the real crunch time.”